Scrap paper still flowing out of SF Bay Area

Scrap paper still flowing out of SF Bay Area

Port agency cites Vietnam and Taiwan as major buyers of scrap paper and metal.

December 12, 2018

The Port of Oakland agency in Oakland, California, says in the first 10 months of 2018 it has been “winning the battle against global trade headwinds” by exporting 3 percent more scrap paper compared to the same time period in 2017.

The increase in Oakland’s recovered fiber shipments contrasts with a generally challenging environment for U.S. scrap paper exports.

The Port of Oakland says it shipped the equivalent of 110,400 20-foot container equivalent units (TEUs) of scrap paper in 2018 through October. The agency says scrap paper is the largest export commodity, measured by container volume, it handles and that the 10-month total accounted for nearly 18 percent of Oakland’s total exports by volume.

Port data shows that nearly all the recyclable paper in the first 10 months of 2018 went to Asia despite trade pressures facing the secondary commodity that include:

  • a rising U.S. dollar making American products more expensive overseas;
  • the U.S.-China tariff standoff; and
  • China’s new, tougher quality standards for foreign scrap products.

China, the Port of Oakland’s No. 1 trade partner, has reduced scrap paper purchases from the port by 37 percent in 2018. However, neighboring Asian countries have picked up the slack, with Oakland scrap exports to Taiwan up 522 percent in 2018 and shipments to Vietnam up by 344 percent, according to the agency.

“We can’t be certain if this trend will last, but the figures seem to show that there’s no loss of demand globally,” says Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll.  “It appears that shippers are finding new markets for their scrap paper products.”

The port agency also says scrap metal exports have increased 10 percent in 2018. It said that shipments of that commodity to China have slumped by 43 percent, but the loss in that market has been largely offset by increased shipments to Taiwan, Vietnam and India.